WASHINGTON-Border crossings plunged to a 45-year low while arrests by deportation officers soared during President Donald Trump's first months in office, as his efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration system went into effect.
"ICE will no longer exempt any class of removable alien from potential enforcement activity", Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters during a briefing Tuesday.
ICE, whose officers pick up people for deportation, made 143,470 arrests, an increase of 25 per cent from 114,434 a year earlier.
Administration officials say the decline in Border Patrol arrests to the lowest level since 1971 doesn't undercut justification for Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico.
Figures released by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday show Trump is delivering on his pledge to more strictly control immigration and suggest that would-be immigrants are getting the message to not even think about crossing the border illegally.
But ICE also took into account in a press release announcing the numbers that there was a 40 percent jump in removals since President Donald Trump took office on January 20 when compared to the previous fiscal year.
Despite the overall decline in border arrests, the numbers have increased every month since May - largely families and unaccompanied children.
ICE deported almost 226,000 people from the United States in the 2017 fiscal year by the end of September, which is 6 percent less than the previous year.
CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello said that the agency was now studying prototypes for the wall Trump has ordered for the almost 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometer) border with Mexico. "All undocumented people in the U.S. now have reason to fear deportation, regardless of the strength of their ties to the United States", the report said.
"You've really had a realignment in migration from Mexico", she said, noting that the numbers of Mexicans apprehended in 2017 fell by 34 percent from the previous year.
Trump campaigned as an immigration hard-liner, accusing Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals to the USA and promising to build "a great wall on our southern border".
Clara Long, a senior researcher for the USA program at Human Rights Watch, said people arrested in the interior were more likely to have deep connections to the U.S. through family, friends and work.
South of the Arizona border in the Mexican town of Nogales, numerous deportees who were eating breakfast Monday at a dining room run by a nonprofit group had been picked up in the USA far from the border.
Trump campaigned as an immigration hard-liner, accusing Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals to the US and promising to build "a great wall on our southern border".
"Under this president, who's now letting us do our job and taking the handcuffs off the men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE, arrests are up", Homan said on "America's Newsroom".
Customs and Border Protection authorities also uncovered several hundred pounds of the drug in other operations in the most recent 12-month period.
CBP, which has faced allegations of excessive use of force, said its employees used firearms 17 times during the fiscal year, down from 27 the previous year and 58 in 2012.
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